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Region 5 details how it has helped counties

BACKUS — Cheryal Lee Hills, Region 5 Development Commission director, reported Tuesday to the Cass County Board on help the commission gave in 2012 to member counties and plans for future assistance.

Region 5 provides comprehensive planning for member counties and their subdivisions and assists them obtain grants and loans to fund future goals set in the plans. Members include Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena Counties.

The recently-published “Building a Resilient Region” identifies themes and recommendations for housing infrastructure, connectivity, energy, natural resources and development patterns, education and workforce development, transportation, economic engines, health care, population changes, efficiency and effectiveness and for affordable housing.

More details are available on a region website: .

Hills noted one change in federal definitions, which she believes will help benefit communities here. The term “brownfields” has referred in the past to properties polluted by chemicals.

Those properties identified as qualifying under the term have been eligible for federal clean-up grant funding.

Now, the term also will apply to any property that has gone unused in the past five years, so it may in the future draw funding to replace or upgrade empty downtown businesses in area communities, she said.

Further, it may now be applied to agricultural lands that have been over fertilized and could potentially drain excess phosphorous into waterways, creating excess vegetative growth and degrading the waterway, she said.

Eight Cass County residents in 2012 have obtained a 3 percent loan to upgrade their failing individual sewer system through a grant Region 5 obtained, which is coordinated with Cass County Environmental Services. The loans ranged from $1,525 to $18,872 each.

Also now available is a similar grant program to offer a 1 percent low interest loan to residents who need to replace their water well.

A Crow Wing County resident has used this program, but so far no one in Cass has.

One Longville business and one Pine River business obtained over $20,000 each in financing through a Region 5-sponsored North Central Economic Development Association loan program in 2012.